With Darren Sammy as captain, it's renewal time

Mon, Oct 18, '10


WICB Under Scrutiny


When I said a year ago that Darren Sammy should lead the West Indies cricket team, I based my conclusion primarily on the need to entrust the leadership of the region’s most important cultural institution to someone who understands that cricket for us in the Caribbean goes beyond the boundary.


As shocking as it is for some of us who still think that national pride and dignity matter, that quality is in short supply among our cricketers and the society at large. There are clear global and local causes of this condition. But for a region that is not as socio-economically developed as other parts of the world, our expression in sports and the arts are especially critical to proving our ability to triumph when the playing field is leveled. It is on the cricket field, for example, that we have had the opportunity to define ourselves and in the process forced the rest of the world to respect us.

From Frank Worrell to Vivian Richards we were blessed with leaders who understood and embodied that collective quest for self-expression/definition, respect and equality. True there were periods when we lost badly, but these leaders ensured that we never lost our dignity. Unfortunately since Richards’ exit we lost our way. Our administrators for the most part adopted what I call the “market model” of giving the captaincy to the most flamboyant player. Leadership ability was measured by how popular a player was with the rest of the team rather than his knowledge and appreciation of the West Indian cricket tradition and West Indian history. This watering down of the criteria for leading the West Indian team was accompanied by our rapid descent to the bottom of the cricket ladder. Inadequate captains did not cause the descent but they sure contributed to it. In the end we kept producing teams which included individual stars but could not win games. What was worse was that they did not have a clue of what their performance or non-performance on the field meant for the collective self-confidence of our people.

It is against this background that I called for Darren Sammy’s appointment. I saw West Indian pride in him. When he spoke, his were words of assurance that we in wider society were on his mind as he played the game. When he took the field to bat, bowl or field I saw that West Indian passion that was greatly responsible for our rise to the top. Sure, Sammy is no Worrell, Sobers, Lloyd or Richards, but one sees glimpses of their leadership mind-set in him.

That’s why I was shocked when none of our experts and administrators advanced his candidacy. I realized the extent to which our intellectual class has lost the ability to critique our condition. The wholesale acceptance of the neo-liberal perspective and reality is a source of much of our inability to negotiate a path out of our present dilemma. We lack the courage to tell our cricketers that their rampant individualism was hurting our collective self-esteem.

So Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo were reinstated to the top leadership of the team with hardly a protest from our cricket media. Not unexpectedly Gayle and Bravo poked their fingers in our collective eyes. Why not? We asked for it. Only after they contemptuously refused the WICB retainer contracts that Sammy’s name surfaced. As usual some immediately jumped on the bandwagon. Tony Cozier was the first to grudgingly start singing Sammy’s praises. Others soon followed. To hear the Chairman of the Selectors, Clyde Butts, talk of Sammy’s leadership qualities makes you shake your head in disgust. Has Mr. Butts just discovered this? But the selectors must still be commended for doing the right thing, even if somewhat belatedly.

Sammy is now the captain -- it's renewal time. He represents a break with the market-oriented leadership. But cricket is a team sport. He must now use his skills to persuade the rest of the team to return to our roots. More than any captain since Richards he has the cultural instincts to lead a renewal of our cricket. But he needs the support of the wider society. The senseless chatting by some of the chattering class that he cannot gain selection to the team on merit should be excused—it points to the low level of public discourse in the region. But as CLR James would retort: What do they know of cricket who only cricket knows.

* David Hinds is a Professor of Caribbean and African Diaspora Studies at Arizona State University in the USA. His writings on Caribbean politics and society can be found on his guyanacaribbeanpolitics.com website.